It is an unfortunate truth that when “Christians” fail – especially ministers – the world pays attention as if of all humans they are the worst of offenders. In some ways, it is to be expected; after all it is an established fact that Christians are supposed to reflect a high moral standard in their conduct. Moreover, the stakes run high with regards to reprisals since we actively condemn sin, and those whose behavior is condemned by Scripture seem ready to pounce upon any publicized moral failure.
We do not excuse nor try to shield the consequences of atrocities done by individuals who claim allegiance to Christ and his Word. We stand in equal disdain – if not more so – because the name of Christ has been disgraced by those who claim to follow Him. Instead, we trust in the “governing authorities” to operate in their providential role to wield their “sword” to punish such criminal behavior (Rom. 13.1-7). Moreover, we trust in God to judge the rebellious – those living and those dead (1 Pet. 4.5).
Christians have a moral and religious responsibility to be good citizens in every country they inhabit no matter who is in power politically (1 Pet. 2.13-17):
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
These words from the Apostle Peter describe Christians as positive influences in society. In fact, this section of his letter ends with the words: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (2.17).
But let us get something straight: there are no perfect Christians. All Christians have a checkered passed and present because all are guilty of succumbing to the seductive nature of sin (Rom. 3.23; Jas. 1.13-15). However, God is merciful adding what we lack in our character (Col. 1.12), provided we are faithful through responsible living which acknowledges these moral failings (Col. 3.1-17; 1 John 1.6-10).
Living as a Blessing to Others
Instead of being contentious and rebellious, using our freedoms as a “cover-up for evil” (2.16), Peter says, “bless, for to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing” (3.9). We are to be blessings to our masters and employers (2.18-25), likewise blessings to our spouses (3.1-7), and blessings to each other in the church (1.22-2.10, 4.7-11). It is to the community at large, and our neighbor in specific to which we are to be a fundamental blessing (4.14-16).
In this connection, God promised such a blessing of the faith when he promised to the patriarch Abraham over three thousand years ago that in his “seed” all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22.18; cf. Gen. 12.3). This is explained by the Apostle Paul as a reference to Christ (Gal. 3.16), and consequently to those who follow the Christian faith (Gal. 3.26-29).
The connection is, we observe, that Christians and the redemptive message they bring will bless the world (Matt. 28.19-20; cf. Rom. 10.13-15). And part of the forgiving message of Jesus is our responsibility is to “go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11). This leaves the Christian with the obligation to live a godly submissive life which invites others to “cease from sin” through the Gospel (1 Pet. 4.1-6; 2 Thess. 2.10; Tit. 2.11-14).
In order to bring home this important point, Peter cites Psalm 34.12-15:
For, ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’
(1 Peter 3:10-12)
This section of the Psalm reflects the vital aspects of the godly life with uncompromising clarity. This is especially powerful when considering that these words were originally from King David (reign c. 1010-970), according to the superscription, as a Psalm of thanksgiving after being “delivered” by the Lord (34.4-7, 17-22). It is an apt description by one who knows the importance of being blessed when one repents and turns toward godliness.
The characteristic of the Psalms focuses upon the “rhythm of thought” rather than a framework of rhyme. This is standard Hebrew poetry, and it beautifully folds upon itself ideas which are not only logical but emotional. Compounding these aspects of thought bridge the gap between the theoretical and the “everyday” nature of living a life before the Creator.
The Godly Dimensions
It is hard to find another statement in the New Testament which is equally compact not only in size but also in teaching.
It reminds the Christian that if we wish to enjoy blessings in our lives, we must “speak and do right and peaceable things”. Let us consider these dimensions presently.
Whoever desires to love life and see good days
A person who loves life is the same person who has a deep desire to see good days. Among all of God’s creation, humans alone have this intense desire to see life for its peaceful and enjoyable possibilities. Yet, the elusive nature of peace often is due to our failures to be vigilant in our pursuit of it. True peace can only emerge when we experience the fellowship with the God of peace who provides for his faithful children (Phil. 4.7, 9).
let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit
Purity in the content and nature of our tongue must exist in a life seeking a “good” and “peaceful” life. For all the good that may be accomplished by the tongue, we may destroy any potential blessing in our lives by being disruptive with guile in another’s life (cf. Jas. 3.2-12. See our “Controlling the Tongue” series).
Casting lies into the life another robs the liar as much as it affects the offended; all that is left behind is a complicated “tangled web”.
let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it
Godly living is incomplete when it is only expressed in terms of avoiding immoral conduct. It must include a passionate pursuit of goodness and peace as well. Evil is never to be pursued; peace, however, is not to be a passive pursuit.
In this light, we must not confuse a false sense of “peace” with actual peace that is expressed by a strong fellowship with the Lord. Some believe that as long as we do not “rock the boat” we are at peace. We must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13.14).
Aligning our discrepant lives to God’s will at times bring with it some turbulence before it is realized (1 Pet. 4.3-5; see “Lessons from a ‘Sinful’ Woman”). Some may think we are “strange”, prudish, but such critics will be left with the scars of the consequences of their immorality (Rom. 1.24, 26, 28). It is therefore necessary to draw clear lines of holy conduct.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.
There is a connection between how a person lives and how a person stands before God. This is reality. If a person lives right, the verse indicates that the Lord is more inclined to help us in a way which demonstrates his particular care. And this care is express clearly as an extension to the salvation already given to us (1 Pet. 1.8-2.19; cf. Psa. 34).
The opposite is evidently equally true. Should a person live contrary to the Lord’s will the language implicitly suggests that the Lord’s inclination to hear and answer prayer may be diminished (Isa. 59.1-2ff; Ezek. 18.20; Luke 13.1-5).
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
As it has been observed, for those who reject the Lord’s plan for our godliness, peace and the “good life” are replaced with condemnation. This is expressed by the adversative statement: “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”. Evil is a legitimate problem, but the word seems to only stick – in the eyes of many – when it is an atrocity like genocide, rape, pedophilia (cf. NAMBLA), animal cruelty, etc.
There are other forms of evil, however, which humanity tends to brush under the rug but which the Lord takes seriously (Read Prov. 6.16-19). He defines what is right and wrong for He alone is good (Mark 10.17-18). Consequently, evil exists in other forms, such as: lying, stealing, rebellion against our Creator, being a bad parent or child, sexual immorality, drunkenness, even certain ideas privately held within the heart (Matt. 15.10-20), etc.
In this passage, Peter calls upon the Christian to remember it is not enough the “wear the name”, but that the Christian must live out the implications of the name of Christ (1 Pet. 4.15-16). If we suffer in this world, it is to be on the basis of rejecting ungodliness and living out holiness to the best of our ability.
This section of Scripture reminds us that we are to be a blessing to others through the way that the Christian lives. We live a life of submission to Him, so that we may experience a blessings; should we suffer harm our blessings will still come to us by the hand of our faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4.19).
As the Apostle Peter exhorts his readers, “live […] as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2.16). We may not be able to be perfect, but let us at least be sincere in our faithfulness to strive to live as one who bears the name of Christ (1 Pet. 2.11-12). It is only through a life set before God can we see how kind He is (Rom. 2.4), how faithful He is (1 John 1.9), and how merciful He is (1 Cor. 15.10-11).
In the end, God will deal with the hypocrites and liars (cf. Matt. 13., and in many ways He already is. Let us seek the godly path where the blessings are.
- All quotations from Scripture are taken from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2001).
- Carroll Stuhlmueller, 1983, Psalms I: 1-72. Old Testament Message Series, No. 21 (Repr. Wilmington, De.: Glazier, 1985), 28.
- G. J. Polkinghorne, 1984, “1 Peter” in The International Bible Commentary edited by Frederick F. Bruce (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Zondervan), 1558.